Over the few short years that I’ve done freelance work, I’ve learned that our most valued commodity is time. I would like to ask for your thoughts on how to optimise my workflow and also offer some of the things that I’ve learned so far.
1) I have a template. If I’m doing the whole post sound for a film, I have a pre-designed template which has different tracks already named and plug-ins loaded up (basic EQ, reverb, etc). I used to lose so much time doing this for every project
2) I’ve created a large SFX/Foley library bank for myself and I’ve bought some from others. I’ve also invested in quite a few misc/random libraries, as they save me so much time. I do have props, but instead of spending a couple of minutes on each miscellaneous sound, trying to dig up the prop and then record it, it’s much easier to just search for the sound in my library
3) I design sound effects way before I ever need them. I designed my own laser gun sound way before I ever got to use it in a project, simply because I don’t always have the time to do it whilst working on a film. I find it easier to just search through what I’ve created and use that rather than create new sounds all the time, especially when there is a time/budgetary constraint (which is nearly all the time)
So, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and what you do to save time here and there.
All very good tips/points and perspectives on time saving!
My contribution is not a specific point (well maybe it is) but more a general point of view for optimising workflow: awareness of your actions/methods.
Time is indeed always (too) short on projects, but I try to analyse what I do on a daily or weekly basis. When I’m finishing up the day of working. I try to replay my day (or week) and see what methods I use and which can be changed. I write down what is good and describe optional approaches that could be quicker or better.
I used to go through the film and search and edit roomtones on a scene by scene basis. But that fragmented method is very inefficient: Soundminer remembers auditioned files until reboot, so the next you’ll probably listen to the same roomtone from yesterday. And maybe even re import that same file for another scene/location.
Now when I’m laying roomtone I’ve start by creating roomtone groups (on all channel/speakers) after the film credits per location, before I start editing at all. I copy a video excerpt from a scene, in that specific location, to see how it works (you need PTHD for this). This way I can tweak a general roomtone or ambience foundation for the rest of the film.
I keep a tab on all these my methods and I can easily explain it to others this way as well. At least I hope this example shows that 🙂
All excellent approaches to workflow, which I myself need to more diligently implement.
My contributions would be Memory Locations used for track view and height to quickly show/hide dialogue tracks, FX tracks etc. as well as Window Configurations for edit or mix based views, or storing AudioSuite plug in combos. Don’t forget you can also tie a Window Configuration into a Memory Location view as well, for extra flexibility.
Setting Plug In Defaults to a User Setting rather than the Factory Default also saves endless mouse clicks. As does setting a Default EQ or Dynamics plug in, in Preferences. You can further add ‘favourites’ by CMD clicking a plug in from your plug in list to add it to this ‘quick access’ menu. Same applies for your AudioSuite menu, which I only recently found out!
If you’re working in Pro Tools, another time saver is to create clip groups for background ambiences and effects…especially if you’re working on a TV series where you keep coming back to the same locations (or in a single film). If you’ve got a group of sounds that work well together as a base to build upon, clip group them together and save them in a specific folder. You can import the clip group and have that solid base to start from. Or you can do this in you data-basing software and tag the files with a specific keyword to just those up. The idea is speed up your search and identification process. My best example is blustery wind. What I think of when I use that word may not be what others do. It’s a specific sound which, if I need, I don’t want to spend 20-30 minutes auditioning through all of my wind files to identify the ones that might be useful in a scene. Basically, don’t just rely on author embedded metadata. Find a way to preserve that and augment for your personal work-flow/use.
Something I’ll do now is contradict your idea of always going to the library. There are certain things I know I can perform better (even wild…not to picture), or know that I just don’t have the right sonic timbre in my library. Part of the problem could be the size of my library too. I know how long it might take to search through and find the sound that I really want in. So I drop markers, and use them to make a list. I sort the list to group similar items together, then spend 1-2 hours recording…working my way down. I make sure I’ve got 2-3 variations per marker and move on. I find that I’m usually much happier, because I’ve got sounds recorded for the specific purpose/need. I also know that I would have spent at least as much time hunting down and editing the sounds to fit. When I sit down to cut in those new sounds, they fly in without very little effort. Plus, I’ve just expanded my library in the process. I did this recently on a VR short that needed a lot of foley sounds. I could have covered them with my library, sure, but cutting purely by hand for this particular project would have taken at least 2-3 times longer than this approach. It saved me time, which in turn let me produce better (more complete) work.
Oh yeah, and I forgot macros. Macros are awesome.
A few things that have made me work more efficiently over the years:
- script/shortcut app – I still use quickeys, but there are others out there that let you remap key commands and create sequences or scripts of commands. if I catch myself doing some repetitive series of keyboard functions, I’ll write each step down & then make a sequence of them… if they are only for very occasional use, I just unassign their keyboard shortcut, so they are still available by reassigning..
- sound library app – this is essential, there are many options (soundminer, basedhead etc) so do your research but a great library app means you dont need to waste time re-organising your ever growing sound library: just let it grow chronologically, tag as much metadata as possible & learn to search effectively. (I dont worry about duplicates, drive space is cheap and being able to find sounds is what is most important)
- for sound effects editors/designers: after every project i would archive the foley sessions into my FX library. These can be an incredibly useful resource especially early in a project before foley recording has started, or when doing temp FX. Tag metadata to project, as your memory will often prompt you with ‘remember those great foley prop FX from XYZ project’ – caveat, verify you have permission to do this.
- for sound effects editors/designers: keep a handheld recorder with you always. Apart from recording random sounds you may find, it is also the best way to make notes eg stuck in traffic & have a great idea for sc27 – grab your recorder & describe it, before you forget it!
- PT specific: additional comment to use of markers, be aware the ‘grid’ can be set to follow ‘clips/markers’. This means if you accurately crawl through a scene & mark it up with markers, you have effectively created a non-linear grid which sounds can be snapped to. Or another approach, play a scene down & drop many markers in realtime without stopping, to capture a performance of timing (‘AutoName Markers during Playback’ must be enabled in prefs to do this)
I have multiple Pro Tools sessions that I use just to store channel strips. Some of them are channel strips in the traditional sense and they serve specific purposes – VO chains, Instruments etc. Others are just groupings of plugins that I like for certain applications, like if I was making lasers – I have a strip with a bunch of plugins useful for that.
When I’m working on a project and I need something, I’ll just import session data from the appropriate channel strip session. This is basically a workaround in getting similar functionality to what Logic has. Save yourself the time of pulling out all the plugins manually!
In addition to all of the great suggestions above:
I have templates that differ based on the project I’m working on. If it’s a major project, it’s pretty expansive, and includes a lot of flexibility to control different groups and elements. For a smaller film or project, I won’t need things built out so wide, and will control things more globally. If I’m mixing a commercial, I’ll use a template I’ve built for that which is much more compact, with a mixing and routing scheme geared towards what I need to accomplish in an often time sensitive setting. The big thing is triple checking the template before you settle. Check the routing, clear all automation, name everything, make sure tracks are all assigned to the proper group, vca, auxes, etc. Enable all plugins, set plugin settings for any plugins that you don’t intend on automating. Solo safe auxes, possibly hit “FMP” on verb sends. Set window layouts. Even check your automation window to make sure things you want active, are active, and vise versa. Make sure every bus has subpaths you may want to send to at some point. Now, because PT12 allows up to 16 offline bounces, I’ll make sure all of my delivery (rec buses) are next to each other in my IO settings. 5.1 & stereo PMs, MEs, Stems, etc. That way when I go to bounce them out, I just have to assign the top one, and hit the “+” sign to get the rest. Make sure you have all of the auxes bused properly, downmixed where needed, limiter and compression settings set. I even have a multichannel Pop track bused to every deliverable I need. It’s so easy, especially for commercials. I just get their aaf, duplicate so I have the original (hide an make that inactive). Move the dial into my dial tracks, fx into fx, mx into mx, and start cleaning and mixing. I can easily check my spec, and bounce out all deliverables immediately.
Region colors help me organize too. I may start out with each track group having its own color. Then, if I’m incorporating in aaf fx from the picture department, I may give them a color so it’s easy to identify if they’re asking about a sound they put in. Or, if I decide to use an alt take on dialog, I may assign that a different color so I’ll know it was an alt. Maybe I’ll include region notes for myself or another editor or mixer, and assign those a specific color. Lots of uses for region colors.
File naming and folder structures. Folder structures are huge for organization. Putting all aafs in one folder, separating FX, BGS, Foley, Dial into separate folders, with subfolders separated into reels, library, or record folders. A folder where I put all “Save session Copy”s. A folder containing everything I’ve sent to, or received from the picture department. Also sticking to a naming structure helps make things very readable. I want someone to know exactly what they’re getting. If I need to find a session or bounce of something I have many versions of, version #s, dates are so important. If they’re all laid out in the same format, it’s easy to locate the one you’re looking for. There are times when you may put the project aside for months because they’re re-editing or whatever, and you’ll jump back on after having been working on something else for a while. If everything is organized and labeled, it’s much easier to dive back in, and locate anything that may pop up as a request.
Also, when I library sounds, I’ll often organize things into not just categories, but shows I’ve worked on. That way, if I know I’m looking for a specific sound I used on a different project, it’s much easier for me to just go right to that folder in workspace, than trying to find it in my soundminer library (even if I’ve put the show name in that sound’s metadata. Some things are just easier to get to when you know exactly where they are. If I want to alter it using soundminer, I can always drop it into my ram database. Tagging fx into folders in the spotting pane on soundminer is a great way to build libraries for a project too.
I also recently discovered you can put emojis into your markers. It’s kind of cool if you’re spotting or making notes for different things, as if your window gets covered in markers, it makes it easier to identify what group or subject the marker is for. I haven’t had ProTools freak out about it either, though I don’t think it’d be wise to add it names of files.
This might be widely known since I just entered the dialogue editing world, but using sound library apps to preview and import alt takes saves me time. I create a new database per project and simply import all the sound files I receive from the editor. It allows me to quickly evaluate quality and performance as well as easily view any metadata provided by the production mixer.